Earth Science News  





. Potential To Amass More Carbon In Eastern North American Forests

The results have implications not only for Wisconsin, but also for regions across eastern North America where forests were leveled historically to make room for agriculture, and then grew up again as settlers abandoned their farms and headed west. In Wisconsin, for example, forest biomass and carbon have been steadily recovering since the peak of agricultural clearing in the 1930s, while those in the northeastern U.S. have been rebounding for about 125 years.
by Staff Writers
Madison WI (SPX) Apr 08, 2009
With climate change looming, the hunt for places that can soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is on.

Obvious "sinks" for the greenhouse gas include the oceans and the enormous trees of tropical rainforests. But temperate forests also play a role, and new research now suggests they can store more carbon than previously thought.

In a study that drew on both historical and present-day datasets, Jeanine Rhemtulla of McGill University and David Mladenoff and Murray Clayton of University of Wisconsin-Madison quantified and compared the above-ground carbon held in the forest trees of Wisconsin just prior to European settlement and widespread logging, and the total carbon they contain today.

Writing in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that despite decades of forest recovery, Wisconsin's woodlands still only hold about two-thirds the carbon of pre-settlement times - suggesting substantial room for them to accumulate more.

"There's probably more potential (to store carbon) than people were considering," says Mladenoff. "There's still a big difference between what was once there and what's there now."

He adds that the true storage potential is probably at least two-fold higher than what he and Rhemtulla calculated, since they factored in only the live, above-ground biomass of tree trunks and crowns, and not the carbon stored in roots and soil.

The results have implications not only for Wisconsin, but also for regions across eastern North America where forests were leveled historically to make room for agriculture, and then grew up again as settlers abandoned their farms and headed west. In Wisconsin, for example, forest biomass and carbon have been steadily recovering since the peak of agricultural clearing in the 1930s, while those in the northeastern U.S. have been rebounding for about 125 years.

Yet, it's precisely because many temperate forests have been recovering for so long that people tend to assume their potential as carbon sinks is "maxed out," says Mladenoff.

"Our results suggest we need to rethink this," he says. "Rather than there being an intrinsic limit on how much carbon a forest can store, how we use the forest - how much we log, how we manage - may be more important."

The findings come amid sweeping discussions of international carbon treaties and accounting systems that are designed to reduce CO2 emissions and combat climate change. In the future, for instance, countries might earn credits for maintaining carbon-rich old-growth forests, or replanting trees on lands logged off previously for agriculture.

Areas that once supported large amounts of forest biomass might also be good sites for growing plantations of hybrid poplar and other biofuels crops, says Mladenoff. But, he cautions, any move toward planting more land in trees must be weighed against competing social and economic factors, such as the need for farmland.

"The landscape is full," says Mladenoff. "So if we're going to add something like forests, we're going to need to take something out."

That certainly seems to be true in Wisconsin. Based on historic carbon levels, the researchers' analysis found that much of the best land for growing trees is the north-central region and along northern Lake Michigan. If those lands could be reforested to pre-settlement levels, the scientists estimate they could add 150 teragrams of carbon (150 million metric tons) to the state's current total of approximately 275 teragrams.

The problem, however, is that most of those lands are still being farmed, setting up an interesting dilemma for policy makers: how to weigh the current economic benefit of agriculture against the future environmental benefit of carbon storage.

"Because we often forget the invisible services, like climate regulation, that ecosystems provide to us for free, we don't usually factor them into our decision making," says Rhemtulla. "But this will need to change if we're going to find ways to meet our immediate needs without compromising critical services over the long term."

Share This Article With Planet Earth
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook



Related Links
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Forestry News - Global and Local News, Science and Application




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
Some tree seeds are longtime survivors
Livermore, CA (UPI) April 6, 2009
U.S. scientists say they've determined the seeds of some tree species can survive for more than 30 years before germinating -- 10 times longer than thought.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • A miraculous rescue and stunned survivors after Italy quake
  • Italy quake exacts toll on cultural heritage
  • Rescue workers in Italy running on adrenaline
  • Fast Communication Channels Critical For Public Health

  • Establishing A Unified Climate Change Language
  • New Greenhouse Gas Identified
  • Australian state eases drought restrictions
  • Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

  • Angry British villagers stop Google maps car: report
  • Satellite Snow Maps Help Reindeer Herders Adapt To A Changing Arctic
  • NASA Continues To Advance International Polar Year Science
  • Satellites Will Help Predict Disasters

  • Unique Approach For Splitting Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen
  • Analysis: Energy Dept. stimulus grants
  • Analysis: Oil and Gas Pipeline Watch
  • Germany's Linde unveils new Chinese joint venture

  • Evolution-Proof Insecticides May Stall Malaria Forever
  • Toll in China disease outbreak rises to 31 children
  • Minimising The Spread Of Deadly Hendra Virus
  • Ecologists Question Effects Of Climate Change On Infectious Diseases

  • Cooperative Behavior Meshes With Evolutionary Theory
  • Bird Can Read Human Gaze
  • Redefining DNA: Darwin From The Atom Up
  • Permian Extinction Not A Global Event

  • 'Super Sherpa' climbs to clean up Everest
  • Wanted: Mayor for polluted, accident-prone China city
  • Berlusconi opens Naples incinerator
  • Industry No Threat To Australian Burrup Rock Art

  • Is There A Seat Of Wisdom In The Brain
  • British woman does 314-foot ocean dive
  • Teeth Of Columbus' Crew Flesh Out Tale Of New World Discovery
  • Americans spend eight hours a day in front of screens

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement